IKEA Catalogue Photoshop Controversy

IKEA Catalogue Photoshop Controversy

Updated Oct 12, 2012 at 03:51AM EDT by Brad.

Added Oct 05, 2012 at 04:43PM EDT by Brad.

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IKEA Catalogue Photoshop Controversy refers to an incident involving the Swedish home products company IKEA’s 2013 product catalogue for its Saudi Arabian branches, in which several female models were edited out of the original photographs. The discrepancy was first exposed in an article published in the Swedish edition of free daily newspaper Metro in October 2012 and the story quickly led to criticisms on social media platforms regarding the company’s localized marketing strategies and the broader issue of gender inequality in the Middle East.


On October 1st, 2012, Sweden’s free daily newspaper Metro[1] published an article titled “Women Cannot be Retouched Away” criticizing the odd removal of several female models from IKEA’s 2013 product catalogue for the Saudi Arabian edition. In the following days, both the story and its before-and-after comparison images were picked up by a wide range of news outlets around the world.

Notable Developments

In Sweden, the news story instantly sparked an outcry over the company’s local marketing tactics and approach to gender inequality, including Birgitta Ohlsson, Sweden’s minister to the European Union, who linked to the article on Twitter and described IKEA’s move as “medieval.” Throughout the day, thousands of tweets relating to the topic were posted on Twitter, according to The New York Times.[5]

IKEA’s Response

Shortly after the Metro article ran, IKEA’s spokesman issued an apology, noting that the company is in the process of reevaluating the work process and the decision to edit the women out of the images was not made by the local franchise owner in Saudi Arabia.

The mistake happened during the work process occurring before presenting the draft catalogue for IKEA Saudi Arabia. We, Inter IKEA Systems B.V., have the ultimate responsibility and take full responsibility for the mistakes made.

Single Topic Blog

On the following day, a single topic blog cleverly titled “I(KEA) got 99 problems but a bitch aint one!”[2] was launched on Tumblr to curate several dozens of photoshopped images in which female subjects are replaced with various furniture items and household products seen in the IKEA catalogue.

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